It is estimated that as many as 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. Famous advocates for the disease, like Michael J. Fox and the late Mohammed Ali, have been able to shed some more light on the disease and its devastating effects on the human body. They have also been able to fundraise to help further Parkinson’s disease research over the years.
And while there is still no definitive cure, Parkinson’s disease research continues to work towards the goal of finding one. In fact, scientists recently discovered that although Parkinson’s symptoms are primarily displayed through motor function, the disease may actually stem from dysfunction in the gut.
Parkinson’s Disease And Gut Bacteria
The Parkinson’s disease research on gut bacteria was presented at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego and was both a nationally and privately funded worldwide research effort. Scientists working on this study from all over the world discovered an unlikely connection between Parkinson’s disease and gut bacteria.
Gut bacteria have been a central focus for researchers studying various diseases in recent years, and now they have found that it might also be linked to a Parkinson’s disease as a potential cause. This new Parkinson’s disease research aimed to explore “whether clumps of alpha-synuclein, called fibrils, could spread from the gut to the brain, potentially via the vagus nerve, which is involved in controlling peripheral organs like the liver and the spleen.” Their findings were positive.
Researchers have known for over a decade that one of the most common early Parkinson’s symptoms is constipation and changes in digestive health. These changes have been reported in people living with Parkinson’s disease as early as ten years prior to tremors appearing. By testing their theory with mice, researchers found that gut dysfunction, specifically synuclein fibres, travel from the gut to the brain, causing the neurological damage that leads to the loss of motor function that you develop with Parkinson’s Disease. This is a major breakthrough, finding a positive connection between Parkinson’s disease and gut bacteria.
Early Parkinson’s Symptoms and Management
Tremors are not necessarily the first sign of Parkinson’s disease. Some of the early Parkinson’s symptoms to look for, according to the National Parkinson’s Foundation:
Small Handwriting. While some people naturally have small handwriting, if you notice a marked change in your handwriting--where it appears smaller, or words appear more crowded on the page--then it may be one of the early Parkinson’s symptoms to keep an eye on.
Loss of Smell. Loss of smell is also a reported early sign of Parkinson’s disease. Considering the Parkinson’s disease research about gut health mentioned above, experts believe that there may be a connection to environmental toxins that cause the changes in smell and gut health.
Constipation. As the study on Parkinson’s and gut bacteria showcased, constipation and changes in digestive health is an early sign of the disease.
A Low Voice. If people have been telling you recently to speak up or that your voice is too soft or hoarse, it may actually be an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Experts believe this symptom is due to early loss of motor function and muscle loss.
Dizziness or Fainting. It’s not uncommon to have dizzy spells or begin fainting at the beginning stages of the disease. This is attributed to low blood pressure, which is a common occurrence with Parkinson’s.
Should you be experiencing any of these Parkinson’s symptoms, be sure to speak with your physician about them immediately. Should they find test results conclusive for Parkinson’s disease, talk to them about the next steps to take, as Parkinson’s symptoms can be managed with the right course of treatment.
Although there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are a variety of medications that can be taken in order to keep tremors under control. Parkinson’s disease research also continues to test the efficacy of stem cell treatments as well as the benefits of certain lifestyle changes.
In fact, a program called Rock Steady Boxing was created by an Indiana Prosecutor, Scott C. Newman, who had been diagnosed with the disease and was determined to get his Parkinson’s symptoms under control. Rock Steady Boxing is now a nationally recognized program that aims to improve the lives of those living with the disease through weekly boxing classes. The drills performed focus on improving agility, coordination, speed, muscular endurance and balance—all of which affect those living with Parkinson’s disease. The organization was launched in 2006 and now has 571 Rock Steady programs across the world and over 28,000 people with Parkinson’s disease training through the program.
Looking Forward, Staying Safe
Because tremors, balance, and coordination are all Parkinson’s symptoms that can lead to dangerous side effects, a Medical Guardian medical alert device provides round the clock medical monitoring services in case of emergencies. A diagnosis like Parkinson’s disease can be scary at first because of all the unknown entities, but the truth of the matter is that people with Parkinson’s disease can live a life without limits as long as they implement the right changes in their life.